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Reyna Barrios, José María (1854–1898)

Reyna Barrios, José María (1854–1898)

José María Reyna Barrios (b. 24 December 1854; d. 8 February 1898), president of Guatemala (1892–1898). Born in San Marcos, he was a nephew of the revered father of Guatemalan Liberalism, Justo Rufino Barrios (1873–1885). At the age of seventeen, he joined his uncle and father in the Liberal Revolt of 1871. He studied at the Escuela Politécnica, the Guatemalan military college. After reaching the rank of general, Reyna Barrios easily defeated his Conservative opponent in the 1892 presidential election. The republic's incipient coffee elite expected the new president to capitalize on the successes of the nation's rapidly expanding agricultural exports in order to secure continued prosperity and enlightened government indefinitely. During the first four years of his administration, several contemporary Guatemalan authors described Reyna Barrios as a "young military officer, filled with prestige, educated in the Liberal School, [a] brave son of the 1871 [Liberal] revolution," "a sincere republican," "fully democratic," and "committed to sustaining the Reforma inaugurated in 1871."

These glowing accounts of the Liberal virtues of Reyna Barrios and his administration ended in the summer of 1897. Increasingly dictatorial in nature and under assault from a significant fraction of the nation's coffee planters, Reyna Barrios responded by ruthlessly crushing a regional Liberal revolt in the fall of 1897 that was led by caudillos in Los Altos. Faced with a severe economic and monetary crisis and increasingly assailed by the criticisms of coffee growers from the highlands, Reyna Barrios received the support necessary from the National Assembly to extend his government until 15 March 1902—four years beyond his constitutionally recognized tenure. Nonetheless, for Reyna Barrios, this proved to be an empty victory. On 8 February 1898, he was assassinated in the capital by a mysterious single gunman. On that same evening, the cabinet met and acknowledged Manuel Estrada Cabrera's (1898–1920) constitutional claim to the presidency as first designate.

See alsoGuatemala .


Barbaroux [pseud.], El 9 de febrero de 1898 en Guatemala (1899).

José Lizardo Díaz O., De la democracia a la dictadura: La revolución de 1897 en occidente, sus motivos, sus hombres, su fracaso (1946).

James Bingham, "Guatemalan Agriculture During the Administration of President Manuel Estrada Cabrera, 1898–1920" (Master's thesis, Tulane Univ., 1974).

Mary Catherine Rendon, "Manuel Estrada Cabrera, Guatemalan President, 1898–1920" (Ph.D. diss., Oxford Univ., 1988).

                                          Wade A. Kit

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